How Black Lives Matter changed fashion in 2020

Even for those who consider what they wear to be entirely apolitical, the huge international industry behind our clothes has long been t...

Even for those who consider what they wear to be entirely apolitical, the huge international industry behind our clothes has long been tied up with wider issues, from workers’ rights to the climate crisis. And this year, the ripple effect of George Floyd’s killing forced the fashion industry – like many others – to respond. Not long after protests erupted in Minneapolis and spread like wildfire, brands rushed to express their support, releasing statements, announcing donations to bail funds, and selling slogan T-shirts. Probing the role they may have played in upholding – and often perpetuating – structural racism, however, has proven somewhat trickier.

After years of glacial progress, a number of initiatives striving to tackle racism in fashion have sprung up within months. Among them is the Black in Fashion Council, launched in July by Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and fashion publicist Sandrine Charles, with a mission to “represent and secure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry”. In a widely shared article edited by Wagner for The Cut in 2018, dozens of black people working in fashion spoke of micro-aggressions, fetishisation, tokenism and difficulties ascending the career ladder.

Long-lasting change

“Fashion is very elitist, and people tend to get employed when they look like the people that are already in those positions,” says Bemi Shaw, a London-based stylist who has worked on photo shoots with stars such as singer-songwriter Jorja Smith and designer Victoria Beckham. Before this year, much of the conversation around race within fashion was centred on the need for more diverse models – the most visible faces of the industry, albeit not the ones pulling the levers of power. Through its directory of black editors, stylists and executives, as well as its equality index that scores companies on inclusivity, the Black in Fashion Council is striving to shake up an industry that still favours those who are thin, wealthy and white.

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Newsrust: How Black Lives Matter changed fashion in 2020
How Black Lives Matter changed fashion in 2020
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